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Groups take exception to the certified ballot title for Initative Petition 43; supporters will have to gather signatures quickly

PMG FILE PHOTO - Challenges have been filed against a certified ballot title for a proposed measure that would ban some semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.

SALEM — Five challenges have been filed against a certified ballot title for a proposed measure that would ban some semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.

Each challenger objects to the language used in the ballot title, particularly the use of the term "assault weapons" and "large-capacity magazines."

The ballot title is what voters will see when they're asked to sign the initiative petition, as well as what they would see on the ballot if the petition is successful.

Anyone can ask the state Supreme Court to review a title for compliance with state statutes before it is approved for circulation to gather signatures.

A certified ballot title for Initiative 43, known as the "ban on certain firearms and magazines with more than 10-round capacity initiative," reads: "Prohibits 'assault weapons' (defined), 'large capacity magazines' (defined), unless registered with state police. Criminal Penalties."

Following the caption is a description of the result of a yes or no vote, and a summary including definitions of terms used in the caption.

'Criminializing' sale and possession?

One of the legal challenges filed Thursday, by the state director of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the legislative committee chairman of the Oregon Hunters' Association, argues that the ballot title should be more impartial and that the version as written "buries the actual major effect of the measure." Petitioners say the effect is to criminalize the sale and possession of commonly-owned firearms.

Generally, objectors argue that both terms are subjective and that the initiative petition would ban common types of guns, such as .22-caliber rim-fire rifles.

"The certified caption misleads the voter into thinking IP 43 only applies to military-type/looking weapons when, in fact, IP 43 covers a broader range of firearms," another set of petitioners for Supreme Court review, Dominic Aiello and Asha Aiello, wrote in their separate challenge.

Handle in a 'expeditious manner'

The initiative petition, backed by a coalition of faith leaders calling itself the Lift Every Voice Campaign, aims to block the sale of some semi-automatic weapons with certain features and most magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

If the measure succeeds, people who own those types of guns and magazines would have to register them with the Oregon State Police and submit to a background check.

Chief Petitioner the Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson said the effort by the NRA to challenge the ballot title was "deeply troubling." He said the legal challenge could delay efforts to gather enough signatures to get the petition on the ballot. Supporters need 88,184 valid signatures by July 6 to send the issue to Oregon voters.

"The time to vote on this common sense public safety and gun violence issue is now," Knutson said in a statement Thursday. "The Lift Every Voice Campaign is hopeful that the attorney general and Supreme Court will handle this in an expeditious manner so we will be able to gather signatures as soon as possible and let the people of Oregon have their voices heard."

The deadline to submit a challenge to the ballot title was Thursday. Generally, when a ballot title is challenged, the state attorney general will respond to the challenges, arguing either that the ballot title is in "substantial compliance" with state statutes, or proposing changes to the ballot title.

Then petitioners can respond again, and the Supreme Court takes the case under consideration, asks for more information from the parties, and/or schedules oral arguments.

It's possible the Oregon Supreme Court may consolidate the cases.

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